It was a memorable afternoon at Rose Valley Hutterite Colony for four of us Moose Jaw folks.
The school principal, Deanna Saulters, had invited us – Denise Helland, Tammy Cozart, my partner Joyce and I – to be invited to the school and see the settlement located about 60 miles south of Moose Jaw.
By the way, I had often wondered about the colony whose first members came from the colony of Baildon.
The school, built by the colony, is a fairly large building with a large classroom on the ground floor, a smaller one for the German school, and a fully equipped binding facility.
The large basement room that day had been transformed into Camp She-Gone by the students with four tents made of quilts, sheets and pillows. A fifth was occupied by Michael, a student and camp counselor.
Eager students showed us their tents and work, including The Rose Valley Times. The recent issue featured drawings of their dads and commentary on what they like about their dads.
The students of the colony do double duty. Breakfast is at 6:30 am, followed by two hours of German study, then English school and two hours of German school after the normal school day.
A group of enthusiastic and brilliant students welcomed us. One of them, Sandra, is better at math than I ever was. She does grade 12 math.
Hearing the students sing a German anthem and some songs in English was a highlight. Vocals and harmonization are awesome – like professional musicians.
The Hutterites are a misunderstood people with a lot of misinformation about their way of life and culture.
They are Christians, pacifists living and sharing in close-knit communities.
Among the myths about them is the belief that they don’t pay taxes. They pay taxes like any farm family.
Another myth: their farms are too big and ruin small communities. If you measure their land holdings by the number of families, they average only 940 acres per family.
Talking to some of the adults revealed a modern farm operation with beef cattle, a few dairy cows; growing: durum wheat, canola, peas, lentils, barley and chickpeas. The vegetable garden is sold to Sobeys Safeway, IGA and the Coop.
Tucked away at one end is a solar panel farm, providing electricity to the settlement. Excess electricity is sold to the grid.
Modern pigsties and chicken coops with freely housed animals are part of the colony. A robot handles the eggs.
“We have the most modern equipment you can find,” said Sam Kleinsasser, Jr.
There are no computers at school. Students leave school after eighth grade.
“No technology in school,” said preacher John Kleinsasser. “They learn by doing. They pick it up quickly.
The preacher does not write sermons. Each sermon is exactly like the one delivered over 400 years ago. The sermons have spanned the centuries.
An audio stream connects the church to each home, allowing sick or disabled members to hear the service.
Sam is one of the original members of Rose Valley, arriving in 1984 to build a concrete batching plant and begin construction. Sixty members came from Baildon. Rose Valley only reached 86.
“In the beginning, we had a lot of elders,” Sam said. “Look at our cemetery. We had a lot more girls than boys. Some of the boys have moved on to greener pastures.
Like Sam and his brother “they come back”.
Two of the women who marry will move to Alberta, leaving 84.
Sandra explained the wedding process with a farewell celebration at the bride’s colony, a welcoming ceremony at the groom’s colony, and then the wedding. Celebrations involve food and drink. No dancing.
I suspect the greener grass isn’t so green when they’ve lived in the close-knit caring community. I think living in a Hutterite colony would be a peaceful life.
You do your job, keep the faith, and your needs are taken care of until they put you six feet under.
The work of the colony is divided by sex. The women take care of the garden, the kitchen and the house. The kitchen and bakery would be the envy of any caterer.
The men do the farm work and construction, currently setting up a 312-foot by 120-foot concrete machine shop.
Meals are common with the men seated on one side of the room, the women on the other. The children eat after themselves.
When asked what they would do in the summer, the students said: babysit, work in the garden or in the barns.
Ron Walter can be reached at [email protected]
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of this publication.